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From Across the Aisle – 11/20/15

The Board of Selectmen has recently begun to consider options for the future of the Country Club of Woodbridge. The First Selectman has presented three different proposals from Toll Brothers for intensive residential development. Two of these proposals violate our zoning regulations. The most intensive scheme would require a change in zoning to triple residential density on the land. I am concerned about the serious risk of changing zoning to increase residential density; I fear such a change could spread to other large parcels of land in town.

My conversations with many town residents indicate that preventing intensive development on the land is a high priority. The one “Open Space” option that has been suggested by the town is to demolish all structures, perform environmental remediation, and maintain a public park with walking trails. While this option does not provide revenue to the town, it is actually much less expensive than the status quo, which includes a large annual fee to the management company to operate the golf course.

We selectmen were asked to provide criteria for other “Open Space” options. I submitted an 8-page report with cost/benefit estimates of the status quo and three other open space scenarios that I hope will be seriously considered. (The full report is available at www.WoodbridgeGOP.org.)

One option is to protect the land and sell it as a golf course. You may be aware that Great River golf course was recently sold to Sacred Heart University for $6 million. It was a competitive sale—Sacred Heart outbid another buyer. The golf course at Oxford Greens is on the market for $5 million (restricted—it must remain a golf course). Clearly, golf courses are being bought and sold in the area. I met recently with a commercial real estate consultant who specializes in golf properties in the Northeast. He believes the CCW could be sold as a golf course with conservation restrictions in place. The town has never engaged a commercial agent and attempted to market the property on contingency. I believe this is a viable option that should be thoroughly explored. It would reduce the debt, return the property to the tax rolls, and prevent development.

Another “Open Space” option that should be investigated is to separate the open land from the clubhouse and its immediate surroundings and engage a commercial agent to market the buildings as a banquet or other similar facility. Again, no such attempt has ever been made by the town. This option would also reduce debt, provide tax revenue, prevent development and keep the majority of the land as open space for the enjoyment of all town residents.

Before my election to the Board of Selectmen, I spent 20 years serving on the Woodbridge Conservation Commission, where my mission was to protect the precious natural resources of our town. Given the overwhelming public support for the purchase of this property in 2009, and the overwhelming rejection of a much smaller, more modest development proposal by Toll in 2011, I believe that the First Selectman should devote considerable attention to investigating “Open Space” proposals for the CCW.

Maria Cruz Kayne is a republican member of the Woodbridge Board of Selectman. She can be reached at 203-887-9065.

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